There are so many people who have aided the Wireman comic series along the way. I hope to get a chance to honor them all, but on the eve of our journey, I would like to mention a few special people who are making a big difference in this project, and, by extension, in the lives of children at-risk. What do I mean when I say ‘children at-risk’? Well, there are states that base their future prison needs on the reading scores of 4th graders–some even 2nd graders! Illiteracy and incarceration are highly correlated. People who work to help kids learn to read can make a life-changing difference. So volunteer at your school, become a literacy tutor. Or, read on for what these folks did to help kids–especially older kids–learn to read.
So much money is funneled into early childhood programs because we can see the biggest gains with early intervention. But kids fall through the cracks, grow up, reach the age of 10, 12, 15, 17 and don’t read well. These are the kids I’m trying to reach.
So, the first person in the Wireman Hall of Fame is my husband, Roger, who has aided me in every sense of the word–creating curriculum (he’s a writing professor), accompanying me to reading conferences, co-signing a loan against our home to fund future issues (we’re not doing that anymore!). Most importantly, he has always regarded my work as essential and encouraged me to keep going. When other husbands could be asking their wives to contribute more to the family income, Roger has insisted we have enough and told me he’s content to support my efforts by contributing more than I do. I’m big about taking care of responsibilities. Without Roger’s understanding it would have been hard. But I have it and I am very grateful! Thank you, Roger!
Next up–Ray and Kristin Abraham, who I met in January 2012. We were introduced by our mutual friend, Bob Johnson, who rode his bike with me on the Tillie Ride. Ray went to East Grand Rapids High School, graduated in 1971, married Kristin (a librarian), and went on to build a successful business. Now, having recently turned 60, Ray and Kristin are seeking to shift some of their earnings from ‘success to significance.’ Ray is a first generation American who understands what it is like to come to school not knowing as much as your peers–through no fault of your own. Kristin knows where a love of books can lead you–anywhere your heart desires–when you know how to read well. Ray and Kristin made a donation to both retool the wiremancomics.com website (it is now part of suestauffacher.com) and to underwrite this trip to hear what kids in major cities have to say about Wireman. Most importantly, they have walked alongside me this last year and a half. Thank you, Ray and Kristin!
Sara Schneider and I met, what, four years ago? What I love about Sara is she’s the kind of young woman I wish I’d been… more adventurous and willing to risk. Sara knows how to indulge her passions–rock climbing, yoga, travel–but she is also hungry for meaning in her life. She accompanied me on the Tillie Ride and is now joining us as a volunteer to help make the Wireman trip a success, putting the social media magic of her company, Saradipity Media, at our disposal. My secret belief is that Sara’s heart is firmly in the camp of helping kids at-risk. She has a lot of adventuring to do before she figures it all out. But I love that she comes along–to laugh at how much of a luddite I am–and to help us figure out what to do next. This is me and Sara upon successfully riding from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Chicago. Thank you, Sara!
Gretchen and I met when she filmed my son, Max (now 22, then 10), doing a dramatic reading from Paul Fleischman’s Bull Run. Gretchen took a shine to Max and they have had many many adventures together, including traveling to New York and Florida to conferences and doing several public television spots. In addition, Gretchen became a friend of mine, helping me tremendously with the execution and filming of Souled Out, our film about the making of a musical about Bessie Smith. It is safe to say that Gretchen, too, has a huge heart for kids at-risk, and wants to keep Wireman alive as much as I do. She has wonderful ideas about using the Wireman concept to teach core skills, like math and reading, through creating comics and films. She’s quite a visionary. Here we are at Betsy Bird’s recent booksigning in Grand Rapids. Gretchen is on the far left. Thank you, Gretchen!